Movie Review – The Happytime Murders
Even though the two films aren’t comparable, this raunchy and adult comedy reminded me of Disney’s Christopher Robin, which came out in theaters three weeks prior to this one. That Disney flick looked like people interacting with puppets, except it wasn’t. That Disney, live-action adaptation instead featured computer-generated imagery for the puppet-like characters. Here, the puppet characters are actually puppets with puppeteers on set but eliminated with green-screen or obscured with specific camera angles. Directed by Brian Henson, this movie is made in the same vein as any Jim Henson film or any film featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets.
The design of the puppets are similar, if not the same as Jim Henson’s designs of Kermit the Frog and all the characters with whom Kermit ever interacted. However, Kermit or any of the traditional or usual Muppets don’t appear here, at least none that I noticed. The distinction is that Kermit interacted with people but Kermit never thought of himself as a puppet. Kermit thought of himself as a frog. In this movie though, the puppets here think of themselves as puppets. This movie presupposes like Netflix’s Bright (2017) that for some magical reason, these puppets don’t need puppeteers. They’re simply alive and people accept them as such, but, like in Bright, the main issue here is the bigotry and racism toward these magical beings.
Structurally, it’s most in line with Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Except, CGI characters are replaced with actual puppets but story-wise, this movie is very akin to that 1988 hit film. Both involve a washed-up and hard-nose, private eye. Both involve a buddy-cop situation between a human and a magical, animated being or in this case a puppet. Instead of Looney Tunes-style slapstick, this movie leans so far into raunchiness. It’s a lot of cursing, swearing and hardcore sex jokes. It feels as though the majority of it was written by the same guys behind Sausage Party (2016).
Or, arguably, this movie does something similar to Team America: World Police (2004) in that Henson features intense, puppet sex. Henson and his team try to outdo that 2004 satirical film by showing bodily fluids. Yet, anytime there’s puppet gore, it’s all fluffy stuffing that spills or explodes out like a shotgun to a pillow. These puppets don’t bleed, even when they’re brutally murdered, so why would they have other bodily fluids? Henson isn’t concerned with consistency in the so-called nature of these puppets, if it means sacrificing an orgasmic joke leading to a visual gag ripped from There’s Something About Mary (1998).
Unfortunately, with everything that Henson has going on, it’s a shame that his plot is rather lame. The murder mystery is very basic. Who Framed Roger Rabbit had a mystery and ultimate plot that commented on the nature of the characters. It was interesting, compelling and emotional. Henson’s plot here is just a simple revenge story. Nothing too earth-shattering exists about the plot. It’s even less than what a Law & Order script would be. Melissa McCarthy is also simply doing a version of what she did in Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013), but if you like seeing puppets doing things like reenacting scenes from Basic Instinct (1992), then this movie might tickle you.
Rated R for crude, sexual content, drug material and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.